The Gunds’ Long-Distance Relationship With Cleveland Parks

Despite most of its trustees living outside of the city, the Gund Foundation is sort of a de facto community foundation for greater Cleveland, and parks and public spaces are a big part of its support. 

We’ve covered some of the cool things happening in Cleveland’s public spaces recently, and one of the big players in most of these projects has been the George Gund Foundation. Gund is about all things Cleveland, which is interesting considering that the descendants of George Gund, who made his fortune there, have since spread out to other cities, many never having lived there. 

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As a profile of the family from 2014 pointed out, it was their grandfather’s intention that his foundation help Cleveland, and it’s become a real rallying point among the family. “We grew up here in the 50s and have developed a very clear attachment to the city,” Geoffrey Gund told The Plain Dealer. “A second factor is the recognition, one that has grown over the years, that the foundation has an impact.”

One of those impacts has been on the ongoing effort to revitalize the city’s parks and public spaces.

The foundation has two programs that deal with parks and gardens—its environment program, but mostly its economic development and community revitalization program.

Specifically, Gund has been side-by-side with the Cleveland Foundation on some major projects to reshape the landscape of the city. The most recent big example was the foundation’s $5 million in support of the redevelopment of the city’s public square, a $32 million project. A major part of the overhaul involves ensuring that it has cutting-edge green infrastructure.

There’s also Gund's support for a series of trails that will link up open spaces with various parts of the city, including connecting its lakefront and riverfront. The project is being run by the Trust for Public Land, which received $2 million from Gund for the effort. 

Related - Turning Whiskey Island into Cleveland’s Front Yard

Gund has also been a big supporter of LAND Studios. The parks and public art nonprofit has been making big strides in the city, and has received $350,000 in annual operating support from Gund. The foundation has also given regular backing to the Cleveland Botanical Garden, notably making a $1 million grant in 2014 for a merger with the Holden Arboretum. 

And then there’s kind of a grab bag of smaller grants for outdoors projects—Rails to Trails Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, Bike Cleveland, and a handful of habitat restorations and nature centers. 

If the Gunds keep up this kind of support, there will always be a nice place in Cleveland to hold a family reunion. 

Related - Funders Love This Nonprofit Helping to Remake Cleveland’s Public Spaces